Tag Archives: coronavirus

Conspiracy Theories, Freedom, Mirrors: What Reality Are We Running From?

12 May

A couple of years ago I was dating a man. A man who, in the dating world, would be considered “good on paper.” An engineer with a good job, healthy, kind, intelligent. He lived in a beautiful mid-century modern home fitted with all of its original built-in fixtures and furniture. My girlfriends and family can probably attest to the fact that I have pretty much ignored those “good on paper” facts throughout my romantic life. That it’s always been heart over head. And since my divorce eight years ago, I have added something to the “look away from practicality and reason” factor when searching for a mate. I now also possess the need to find something wrong with someone to prove to myself that I shouldn’t like this person, thereby saving me from being seen, and letting someone inside my soul, inside my heart. To do that, would mean I would have to look in the mirror and see myself, my desire to love and be loved, to see myself in all of my flaws and vulnerabilities, to not hide, the good, the bad and the ugly. I’d have to love myself, before I could say, hey you, will you please love me, and I will love you back?

In the case of the engineer, aside from me realizing there was somewhat of a lack of chemistry–you know, the kind that wears off after the first few dates where you think maybe it was the wine at dinner that made it seem like you two really hit it off–I found out he believed in several conspiracy theories. I don’t remember the details exactly, but something to do with the government, and tracking us, as most conspiracy theories revolve around. Looking for a reason not to like, or allow myself to be liked, I asked one of the approachable psychiatrists on the inpatient psych unit I work on, what he thought about people who believed in conspiracy theories. I prefaced my question by saying this was someone I knew, and not a patient.

His response was that he didn’t feel concerned about people who believed in them, that people have their own views of reality, and that he in fact has, as time goes on, questioned his own thoughts and the reality, or validity of them. I understood what he meant. In the eight years I have worked as an Activities Therapist in a psychiatric hospital, and the many years before that working with homeless adults with mental illness, many living with schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders, I have had conversations with people who have shared their intricately detailed realities with me, which has opened up my own view of what “reality” and “normal” means, and has made me feel, at times, that my own view of reality is quite limited, dull, or predictable.

My excuse to break up with the engineer for believing in conspiracy theories dashed, I had to just break up with him for some other reason, which I did, at least proving to myself, I wasn’t going to hold onto him for the comfortability of his economic situation, and that super cool house which I was sad to not see again. In a way, I was being true to myself, able to look in the mirror and say material comfort doesn’t matter nearly as much to me, as real love.

Living in the age of the coronavirus there are new conspiracy theories swirling around. These include ideas that the virus is a hoax, or its impact grossly overstated, and that our government in this country is using the virus, the shutting down of our economy, the placating of the masses through stimulus and unemployment checks, the restriction of our ability to move freely in open spaces, all as a means to take away our freedom and impose martial law.

In the video, Plandemic, which surfaced and then was removed from Youtube, and which I only watched a little bit of, but read about, these theories are expanded upon, and include a bid to discredit Dr. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, as a controlling, research grant money-grubbing scientist, who held back information during the HIV/AIDS crisis which put off the development of life-saving drugs to combat the illness.

I have a hard time understanding the belief of the coronavirus conspiracy theories when there is scientific data shared about the toll the virus is taking in this country and world-wide, and facts shared discrediting the story of the scientist making claims in the Plandemic video. People believe what they believe, and I should not judge, lest I be judged myself. But what troubles me regarding the virus conspiracy theories, is how believing these theories, impacts people.

There is data that shows how the virus, and living under quarantine has impacted Black and brown communities. We now know, as I shared in my most recent post, Let Us Not Forget Racism In The Time Of Covid-19, that the death toll has been higher for Black and brown people in this country. This is because of racist policies and laws which created health and economic disparities, and inequity in access to quality healthcare, which led to Black and brown people possessing more underlying health issues, making them more susceptible to having complications, or succumbing to the coronavirus. We also know in the hardest hit areas, our urban centers, it is Black and brown people who are the majority essential workers who have had to keep working, who have had to be in spaces with many people, thereby exposing themselves to a much greater possibility of getting the virus, and/or exposing their families and communities to it.

We can say, let people, and I am going to say, us white people, believe what we want to believe, even though I know people of all races and ethnicities are prone to believing in certain conspiracy theories, but when those beliefs put Black and brown people in even more danger, like the coronavirus conspiracy theories are, I question the will of the person who is investing their energy in an ideal that harms others. I wonder with all the energy it takes to get to this truth about the man and what they are trying to do to us, with all of this running to get to the truth, what is the truth my fellow white people are running away from?

When I hear white people, and not even the obvious state house-stampeding, gun-toting, confederate flag-waving, swastika-wearing, I Want A Haircut sign-holding, white people, saying their freedoms are being impeded upon, the virus isn’t so bad, and we should reopen the economy pronto, I hear white supremacist self-interest. I hear hypocrisy.

Yes, I know that many people are hurting economically. Yet, with the phased, or no-holds barred re-openings of states, it will be the low-paying service jobs in restaurants, retail, and factories, that get called back first. The people who are economically disadvantaged and living in densely populated areas, and who will be majority Black and brown people will be putting themselves at greater risk. If they refuse to go back to work, whether it is due to wishes to maintain their health if they or their family members are health or immuno-compromised, or simply fear risk of exposure or spread of virus, their employer can fire them, and they will have their unemployment benefits cut off. The freedom of choice you wish to have about whether you wear a mask or can sit in a restaurant, is one that not everyone has.

I have heard people worry about the right to assemble and protest being taken away during this time, another sign of the government taking away our liberties. When I hear this, I remember the same people complaining that the Black Lives Matter protest several years ago that blocked the highway, was inconvenient. I remember when you said Colin Kaepernick taking a knee was unpatriotic and disrespected our military, ignoring the fact that Kaepernick said, time and again, he was protesting the racial profiling and killings of unarmed Black men, boys, and women by police officers. I remember you saying this isn’t the place for protest. I remember you saying if only Black people didn’t riot, if only Black people didn’t run, if only Black people complied. But now, you are saying it is un-American that we are not allowed to “protest” our right to use our voice, to claim our freedom to get our nails done.

When I heard Black people, Black people I work with, Black people I talked with on the phone, Black people I see posting on social media, Black person after Black person saying they are so tired, so exhausted of the murders, the lynchings, of Black people, at the hands of white people, when I heard Black people asking, “Why?” “Why do they hate us?” I know it is not enough for me to be sad, to be enraged. I know I, I know we must do something. Yet I am enraged when instead of more white people around me speaking about being sad or enraged and doing something–and certainly there were many that were–there were still the voices who did not speak the name Ahmaud Arbery, but instead used their breath to wonder about re-opening.

When I hear us white people question this video and flip the question this time, asking, why didn’t he run, I want to shake us. In the past, it’s been, why did he run, why didn’t he just do what the officer said, why did he fight back, why did she talk back? Now you want to ask, why didn’t he run! Has our consciousness not been raised by witnessing, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Korryn Gaines, Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, Amodou Diallo, Sean Bell, John Crawford, Philando Castile, Ashton Sterling, Stephon Clark, Freddie Gray, Rekia Boyd, Jordan Davis, and on, and on?

Are we white people spending our time chasing the reality we want to believe so we don’t have to, as James Baldwin has said, look in the mirror and truly see ourselves, and the horror of our reality–the brutalizing of Black, brown and Indigenous people for over four hundred years? Is it we don’t want to make ourselves vulnerable to that? To surrender to our good, our bad and our ugly? Would we rather look to make someone else the ogre, like the government taking away our rights? Is it easier to make the Black person, the one who did something wrong, by taking a jog in his neighborhood in broad daylight, or by placing one of his knees on the ground?

It is, right? It is easier to do that than it is to accept the white supremacist ideas ingrained in the fabric of our souls, easier to do that than to implicate ourselves, to implicate our whiteness, which leads to white violence.

Some might say I am doing some chasing myself. That I am tying together threads that don’t belong together–like dating a conspiracy theorist, one’s right to freedom, and the killing of a 25 year-old Black man out jogging, to justify my reality that in this time in history, the belief in coronavirus conspiracy theories is harmful and fueled by white-supremacist values.

Some might say when will Wendy stop trying to make everything about race? My answer to that will always be: when we are all truly free.

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Photo credit: ksltv.com

Let Us Not Forget Racism In The Time Of Covid-19

28 Apr

People wait in line to receive testing during the global outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Chicago

How are you all doing?

I know I’ve gone quiet here. I got overwhelmed by what is going on in my world, in all the world.

We are all overwhelmed, aren’t we? Or, if you’re not, perhaps we can Zoom, and you can share with me how you are not. Even if you are feeling like you are not, because some days, I’m like, okay, I don’t feel stressed outwardly, I’m just still going about my day, there still is something happening in our psyches, right?

Even if you go for your run, or feel cozy binge watching a series you’ve always wanted to have time for, or re-experience the forgotten joy of family dinners, we must all be internalizing some feeling of, this is not normal or, is this really happening? We must be internalizing some kind of fear, the dread of, will I get it? or, will I lose a loved one? or, how long will this go on for? or when is that unemployment check coming? or how are my children doing? or what in the world–inject disinfectant?! or…fill in the blank.

And that is normal. We are living through a global health pandemic, something that many who were born and raised in this country have not ever experienced. There is not a wrong or a right way to be right now. Whether you want to be productive or you feel unable to do more than get up, shower, and sit on the couch, it is okay.

I do find I need to be conscious of my mental health, and do something to get a hold of my thoughts, my mood, when I am feeling low. Much of the time this consists of eating donuts. I hope this comfort eating habit passes.

Yet, in all of this, what we must also know, is what is happening, and not happening, to Black and brown, and Asian people in this country during this time of dealing with Covid-19.

Asian, and Asian American people are experiencing racial violence, most often in the form of verbal abuse, by people who believe they are the cause of the virus spreading to the United States. Black people are not being believed about their symptoms, and denied testing when they show up at hospitals complaining of virus symptoms. I have read too many articles of Black people dying as a result of being denied care, and when I scroll my newsfeed on social media, the majority of friends posting their losses of friends and loved ones from the virus, are Black.

There are also the statistics that show the disproportionate numbers of Black people being impacted by the virus, and we know the reasons for this are layered. Health disparities caused by centuries of racism and racist policies, like the GI Bill and discriminatory lending practices, which didn’t allow Black people to live in “white neighborhoods,” forcing them to live in over-crowded neighborhoods subject to pollution, and poverty. Lack of opportunity and access to affordable housing, good healthcare, supermarkets, transportation, and jobs which pay a living wage, all contribute to health complications, like heart issues, asthma, and diabetes.

We are also talking about how education gone distance=learning mode is marred with inequity. Even when every student gets a chrome book, there are some students living with a lack of privacy and space, lack of internet services, unsettling home environments, and some students are learning some of their teachers lack online teaching experience. These factors create unequal learning experiences.

In big cities, and other urban areas, we are seeing that our essential workers trying to earn a living, are majority people of color. They do not have the option to not be in crowded spaces, or to not interface with the public. And, I have not heard a lot said about this, but when I do go to the supermarket, the majority of personal grocery shoppers, whether they are working for Instacart, or for the grocery store, like Whole Foods, are Black and brown people. And, while, I understand that we are told to stay at home and avoid the markets as much as we can, and that some people are health and immuno-compromised and should not go out, and that being a shopper is a good way to make money, especially during this time, it is a time where people of color are putting themselves, and their health, on the line, so that they can earn an income to live on.

We talk about this as being a pivotal moment for us as human beings. A time when our lives and many of our livelihoods have screeched to a halt, or at least, greatly slowed down. A time when our leadership has greatly failed us. A time when we are witnessing the unraveling of our capitalistic society. A time when people are saying it is showing us our own humanity. A time when everyone is blaming someone or something else, and a time when no one wants to take the blame. A time when we are seeing those who care most about keeping what they have for themselves, and a time when we see those with a lot, or with very little, sharing what they have so others can keep on living. A time, as a friend said, which can be used to think about the person we want to emerge as when this is all over. Please be kind, is something he often says. At this time, it is said with more urgency.

I noticed in the last week or two as I scroll through my social media feed, I have seen many videos of pow-wows, when before I might see them very rarely. I have read how the virus is also hard-hitting in the Native American community for many of the same reasons as in the Black community: health disparities that lead to underlying health issues, and lack of access to adequate healthcare.

When I see the pow-wow dancers in their respective tribes’ ceremonial dress, when I watch them move, hear the singing chants, the beating of the drums, I feel as if they are appearing as a message to all of us here. It is a feeling of the dancers of today and their ancestors both here in present time, to show us whose land this always really was in the first place, to show us what we have done to them, to their land, to show us how we have lost our way in respecting one another, in respecting the land, and to show us that we must again return to the beginning, to acknowledge all of our horrific wrongs, to start over, to right the wrongs, to begin a new world, based not on what does not belong to us, but on creating a new way that speaks of honor, love, respect, sharing, and community.

If we are going to rise from these ashes and build something new for this country, will we be kind? Will we white people make certain that we re-find our humanity and be a part of recreating a society that is truly equal and just? I say, be a part of, because while we need to be the ones to take the responsibility and use our positions of power and privilege to change the system, we must also do that with Black and brown and Indigenous people taking the lead in sharing what is wrong, and what is needed, and what this new reality should look like if we are to truly share vision, power and resources. Will we be certain that we become beautiful loving humans, who have finally awakened to the knowledge that we are all connected and none of us are free, until all of us are free?

Yes, we are overwhelmed, and it is hard some days to think of anything other than getting through our own personal, daily struggles, and that is real, real. But, it is also my wish that we do our best right now, every day, to keep our eyes wide open, and speak up and act appropriately so that everyone in our communities is getting what they need in this moment.

Wishing you all peace, good health, and safety. Please be kind.

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SOURCE: www.theroot.com – article, Black Woman Dies From Coronavirus After Being Turned Away 4 Times from Hospital She Worked at for Decades, 4/26/20 by Ishena Robinson

www.washingtonpost.com – article, 4 Reasons Coronavirus Is Hitting Black Communities So Hard, 4/10/20 by Eugene Scott

Photo credit: pbs.org, Creator: Joshua Lott, Credit: Reuters